Even those that do not particularly care for math will agree that pi, or “π,” is fascinating. The numerical constant — defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter— is recognized by most as 3.14. However, Pi is an irrational number. This means it can’t be written as a fraction. Instead, it is infinitely long and never forms a repeating pattern. While individuals attempt to break records by memorizing pi’s decimal points, scientists strive to find its most accurate value using new algorithms and powerful computers.

On August 5, 2021, researchers from the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons in Switzerland announced that they had set a new world record by calculating the famous number to its first 62.8 trillion decimal places! This is over 12 trillion more decimal places than the current record of 50 trillion set by Timothy Mullican in 2020. It is twice the previous record of 31.4 trillion set by Google in 2019.

Knowing more digits of pi isn’t particularly important for mathematics . However, calculating pi values at a faster and most exact rate is crucial for research advancement. Perfecting the computation of the irrational number helps create computer software that works faster and more efficiently, benefitting fields from weather forecasting to COVID-19 data modeling.

The Swiss team’s pi computation, which took 108 days and nine hours, was about 3.5 times faster than the eight months it took Mullican. The increase in supercomputing performance in just 18 months is even more impressive given that it had an additional 12 trillion decimal places.

The Swiss scientists have no plans to calculate pi’s infinite digits any further. However, they fully expect other scientists to surpass their record within a short time. Team leader Thomas Keller says, “Looking at the previous pace of record-setting, I anticipate the next successful record-breaking attempt any time in the space of the next two years.”